Tragedy struck St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, on Thursday when a gunman entered a church potluck and opened fire, killing two and injuring one more. Vestavia Hills Police Capt. Shane Ware told USA Today that they have a suspect in custody and believe the shooter acted alone.
“From what we’ve gathered from the circumstances of this evening, a lone suspect entered a small group church meeting and began shooting,” Ware said at a news briefing. Ware did not identify the shooter’s identity or a motive.
Rev. Kelley Hudlow, who works in the office of Bishop Glenda Curry of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, told local station WVTM-13 that the local community is coming together to pray for those affected. “We’re Episcopalians; we believe in Jesus and we believe that prayer helps,” said Hudlow. “Currently we are praying for healing and safety for all those that have been impacted and affected.”
The shooting follows a terrible spate of mass shootings across the U.S., including a racist mass shooting in Buffalo, New York that killed ten; a the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 21; and a hospital shooting in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that killed four. It’s also the latest to take place in a house of worship, following a Kansas church shooting that killed two and a Southern California church shooting that left one person dead.
The mounting death toll is putting pressure on lawmakers to address the nation’s unique level of gun violence, and a bipartisan group has advanced a new package of gun control measures that would tweak several existing laws. The package faces a steep uphill climb before it gets to President Joe Biden’s desk, but Biden has said he will sign it if it does.